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Strategic marketing and branding is one of the leading sectors in marketing today. Gone are the days of ‘set and forget’ marketing tactics or ‘hope for the best’ strategies; nowadays, it’s all about strategic insights and taking action on collated data. One of the affects of this shift is that marketers must now have at the very least a good awareness of the impact of their work – and, hopefully, an ability to understand that impact.

As we’ve seen before throughout the Marketing Expert Series, marketers come from all sorts of backgrounds and paths. For some, jumping into the world of marketing is no surprise: a logical step from their background or education that just makes sense. One such individual is our Expert for this issue, Bernard Yong, the Head of Strategic Marketing and Brand Experience at Mah Sing Group, one of Malaysia’s leading property developers. With an affinity for data and analytics, and with a Bachelor’s in Software Engineering, it’s no surprise really that Bernard found his way into marketing, bypassing the IT industry altogether.

Join us for this issue of the Marketing Expert Series to gain a deeper insight into the world of property development marketing and strategic marketing and branding.


Welcome, Bernard! Thanks for joining us in this issue of the Marketing Expert Series! Let’s start with the basics. Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get to where you are now? 

My background actually is in Computer Science, more specifically in software engineering – I have a Bachelors. However, I haven’t touched a single line of code ever since I graduated back in 2002. I guess at that time, a career in programming just didn’t strike my fancy. After graduating, I did a stint of corporate advisory (with an international accounting firm), where we advised clients on fund-raising and listings.

I first got into property in 2006. Although I had no background nor experience whatsoever in property at that time, I’ve always had a personal interest in property as a product, as an investment vehicle, and as an embodiment of someone’s dreams and aspirations. My role was as Marketing Manager, handling high-end strata projects in Kuala Lumpur.

From there, I moved from strength to strength, and have been in property – in one form or another – ever since. My initial years were focused on sales & marketing, and I made the switch to specialize in Branding and Strategic Marketing when I made the move to TRX City Sdn Bhd back in 2012. Moving away from the core of sales and marketing, into branding and B2B initiatives, was a great learning experience.

I joined my current company in 2017, and my portfolio – besides handling branding & strategic marketing – expanded in 2020 to include the nascent Experience Management division – which I basically kickstarted. The purpose of this new division is to drive increased customer satisfaction amongst our buyers.

Were you always interested in marketing? How did you find your way into this career?

I’ve always had an interest in marketing. During my 20s, I embarked on quite a number of start-ups and business ventures (part-time), ranging from an online clothing retailer to an aggregator of property news. As with any start-up, a robust understanding of marketing was a must, and all these learnings complemented and added value to what I was doing in my day job.

Currently, you’re the Head of Strategic Marketing and Brand Experience at Mah Sing Group. What sort of work does Mah Sing do and what role do you play there?

Mah Sing is one of Malaysia’s largest property developers, and my role is multifold as I head two departments within the organization.

One of my departments – Branding & Strategic Marketing (BSM for short), is the steward of the brand, focusing on driving positive brand perception, awareness and recall. This department also handles all group-related marketing initiatives, ranging from group sales campaigns to partnerships and sponsorships. We’re also tasked with improving overall marketing efficiency for the group, in terms of increased conversions, reduced CPAs, and improving overall marketing ROI.

My second department, which is Experience Management (XM), serves to improve customer experience and satisfaction with regards to our business. We kickstarted a ‘Voice of Customer’ program, where we obtain real-time feedback from customers, and use it to measure out NPS and CSAT scores. With this in place, we’ve then had to work to develop the right KPIs, set up the right organizational structures, obtain the buy-in from key stakeholders, in order to drive change and improvements.

Property development is an interesting industry. What sort of challenges do you face and how do you overcome them?

Yes, it’s an interesting industry. The main challenges now are, and I’ll keep it brief:

  1. The awareness and discovery phases of marketing are increasingly taking place online. This may not seem like a big deal for most industries, but property is still a very bricks-and-mortar physical product. Customers mostly still want to see the physical product (in our case, it’ll be the show unit), before they sign on the dotted line. So, it is this straddling off online and offline, or online-to-offline (O2O as they call it), and striking the right balance, which poses an interesting challenge. We overcome this by building up our online offerings and channels, as we’ve always been strong offline. By building up, I mean ensuring that the sales process is digitized so that it can be monitored and tracked, focusing on increasing the effectiveness of our web assets, shifting more spend to digital marketing, and training and upskilling our team to sell across different modes of communication.
  2. In Malaysia, the property market is going through a soft patch. Structural issues mostly – oversupply caused by many years of rampant development, economic slowdown caused by COVID-19, stagnation in wages and compressed affordability, etc. We’ve responded by shifting our product offerings over the years, to focus more on mass affordable properties. 91% of our recent products are priced below RM700K. The days of selling million-ringgit properties are for now at least, put on hold in view of buyer preference and sentiment.

Let’s talk about you personally, you’re a successful marketer with a lot of experience in branding and creating strong customer experiences. How have your career experiences shaped you as a marketer?

I think all our experiences, be it career or personal, help shape who we are as a professional. There were many lessons learned, and yes mistakes made. I think given my background in IT, and my fondness for data and analytics, I’ve evolved into a marketer who is very much focused on performance.

No matter what we roll out, my question to my team is always “Well, how did it do? Did it meet our objectives?”. The days of execution for execution’s sake, or as the famous saying goes “Half of our marketing budget is going to waste, the problem is I don’t know which half”, are long gone. Marketing is becoming increasingly data-centric, and attributable, and that has greatly informed the way I approach marketing, and even branding in general.

Looking back at your career, is there any experience that you feel had a bigger impact on your life as a whole? Or do you feel like they all add up?

They definitely all add up. I can name one experience which really made me pause and evaluate myself and my approach to leadership. There was one incident where my department suffered a flurry of resignations. Needless to say, this was highly discouraging – to me personally, and disruptive to our operations.

Looking back, I believe I could have perhaps been more attuned to the sentiment of the team, and been that stronger leader they needed at that time. A bitter pill to swallow, yes, but a necessary one. That has definitely impacted the way I lead now, hopefully for the better. I’m still learning.

Now, COVID-19 – the topic none of us can ignore. How have the lockdowns and movement control orders impacted the property market and your work at Mah Sing?

It definitely has impacted the property market. While interest is still high, people are still registering their interest and making bookings (online), there is still a lot of waiting and seeing before they finalize their sale (sign on the sales and purchase agreement). We hope that with the NRP announced recently, the opening up of the economy will happen sooner rather than later.

Do you think there will be a lasting impact from the pandemic that will affect how property developers and indeed marketers go about their business?

Yes, it will. This has been a global, market shifting experience. One that will leave a lasting impact. For one, the way property developers design properties will change. From the previous focus on increasingly fancy common areas and a focus on ‘placemaking’, we have shifted to a strategy of ‘homemaking’, whereby the home is now the core of your personal life. A home is now to be more flexible, cosy, intimate, secure.

In terms of marketing, the massive shift to online and virtual channels will definitely affect how we plan and execute our marketing campaigns. We’re still experimenting with a lot of different formats and mediums, and it’ll be an interesting journey of learning for sure.

What’s next for you, personally? Is there anything you’re looking forward to most when this pandemic is over and done with at last?

I most look forward to hitting the skies and travelling with my family again! I think 99% of people out there would echo this sentiment.

Any advice you’d give to young and aspiring marketers specialists? 

To achieve success for all your plans and initiatives, you need to know what success looks like. What is the outcome (measurable) that you want to achieve? Plan that out, measure it, and work your butt off to achieve it. In today’s world, there is no longer a divide between traditional and digital marketing. Marketing = Digital. So, get comfortable with metrics and analytics, it’ll serve you well.

Thanks for spending some time with us, Bernard! How can people connect with you if they’d like to know more about you?

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bernardyong/

Mobile/WhatsApp: +6012-5266551

 

 

 

 

We’ve discussed account-based marketing (ABM) strategy before, and talked about its resurgence in recent years. ABM – also known as key-account marketing (KAM), is a B2B marketing strategy based on goal-setting and key account targeting. In essence, ABM allows companies to better reach and communicate with individual prospects or accounts, treating them as a market of one. Think of ABM as a one-to-on approach instead of a one-to-many; generating specific leads with a fishing line rather than fishing broadly with a net.

Typically, an account-based marketing strategy is used to help align sales and marketing teams and maximize return on investment (ROI) for marketing campaigns. To make it clear, there are some very good reasons why companies might want to adopt ABM in their B2B marketing strategies:

5 Reasons You’ll Benefit from an Account-Based Marketing Strategy

1. Personalised Communications.

ABM relies on research and knowledge of target prospects, as a result, it allows for improved personalised communication. Peronalised marketing strategies are proven to have a higher impact on engagement, appealing to customers and prospects’ emotions. Personalized email introductions, for example, that address people by name rather than by the boring, generic, ‘Dear customer’ or ‘Hi!’, have a greater chance of drawing and keeping interest. ABM takes personalized marketing to the next level, developing specifically targeted content that engages decision-makers and draws them through the buyer’s journey.

2. Improves Marketing Resource Efficiency.

One of the key weaknesses of a traditional marketing funnel is that it is often stretched too thin. Traditionally, marketing resources tend to be expended on raking in as many leads as possible. ABM helps structure and plan marketing efforts so that they are being spent in the right places on the right accounts to drive the most revenue. Think of it as a strategy that focuses your marketing and sales efforts where they will do the most good.

3. Enhances your Tracking.

ROI is a critical part of analysing your bottom line and engagement. It’s important to review and track the impact of each of your campaigns to continuously improve and build on your successes. By understanding the effectiveness of each individual aspect of your ABM strategy you will be even more effective moving forward.

4. Increased Alignment of Sales and Marketing.

One of the biggest problems we encounter in today’s traditional marketing departments is that sales and marketing teams function in individual silos. A key strength of ABM is that it draws sales and marketing teams together, out of their individual pillars and into a joint team with the same goals. A solid ABM strategy requires that sales and marketing work closely.  ABM keeps these teams working together instead of working independently.

5. Defines your ROI

All marketing initiatives need to be measured, and ABM is no different. The difference is that ABM provides a clearer, more focused picture of your ROI because it is a clearer and more focused approach. In any marketing activity, measuring ROI is critical and, nowadays, is more easily accomplished through the vast array of automation and software tools we now have at our disposal. ABM allows us to see both the return on investment for an ABM initiative and areas for improvement based on how leads are responding to your content.

Final Thoughts

Account-based marketing can have a massive impact on your B2B marketing strategy. Using a more focused, united approach, it is a strategy that provides a higher quality of leads that are more likely to convert to higher-value customers. It’s a more efficient use of both your marketing and sales teams, aligning them in pursuit of enhanced lead generation.

Are you looking to enhance your ROI on lead generation? We’ve done some great work in this field using SEM and SEO, or get in touch and let’s work together to optimize your lead generation today.

Welcome back to another edition of #2STeamStories, a monthly serial that lets you get to know more about the 2Stallions Family and what they do. From internships, UI/UX design, to content marketing, #2STeamStories aims to help everyone get a better picture about life at an agency. We also hope to provide insights into each speciality and encourage aspiring marketers to join this dynamic and exciting industry.

In this edition, we dive into the world of our Head of Performance, Pieter Dijkgraaf. Pieter shares his journey into the marketing world, starting life as a Google advertising specialist and becoming the driving force behind 2Stallions’s digital performance marketing success. Join us for a glimpse into Pieter’s history in 6 Questions, let’s discover performance marketing and learn what it takes to connect and engage customers in this digital era. 

Hi Pieter! Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hi! I’m 33 years old and originally from the Netherlands.  I started my career 10 years ago as a Google ads specialist, but I chose to specialize in Performance Marketing. This basically means that I’m focused on making sure that money invested in marketing is actually making a return. Performance marketing encompasses almost all digital channels like SEM, SEO, Social, Marketing Automation, Programmatic, Affiliate, Marketplaces. It also works hand-in-hand with data analytics, and metrics like conversion rate optimization. Looking back at where I started, I would say that search engine advertising is still the area I am interested in; and I dp try to keep up with all the changes in that area. 

How did you find your way to working at 2Stallions?

I got in touch with Daniel at the end of 2019 while I was still working in The Netherlands. I was working for an agency at that time, and he was looking for a new Head of Performance Marketing, a role I was very familiar with. When he told me about 2Stallions, their strategy, positioning, type of clients and ambitions, it really appealed to me. It did, however, require me to move to another country, not knowing, of course, that COVID would hit the world a month after my arrival in Singapore. 

What is your proudest career moment so far?

I’m very proud of the way we are going through the whole COVID-19 crisis as a team. We had already established a work-from-home policy in the company, letting people work from home one day in the week to allow for flexibility, and so the transition to everyone working from home was quite smooth. We were also very lucky because we didn’t need to let anyone go, which continues to allow us to work hard on ongoing and new projects as a team.  This meant we could still give our all for our clients,  giving them great service and helping them digitalize in a time when they needed it most. The way the team came together and put extra time and work is what I am most proud of. 

Can you share your marketing journey with us? How did you first start marketing?

I started looking for a job after finishing my Masters degree in 2010. Digital marketing was not really taught in universities yet and, to be honest, I actually wasn’t too familiar with it. Jobs were also scarce for a fresh graduate without relevant experience except for some internships. Then there was this position at a Google Vendor to run Google ads. I wasn’t familiar with them but managed to successfully go through the several rounds of the interview and application process. Once I started I immediately knew I was in the right business and wanted to pursue a career in digital marketing. 

Can you share with us a little about what’s expected of the role of Head of Performance Marketing? 

I manage a team of several specialists based throughout the APAC region. In a nutshell, performance marketing basically means making sure business/campaign results are being achieved. To make sure of that we have specialists in SEO, SEM, social, display, marketing automation, as well as in data and analytics. It is my job to make sure everyone can do their job to the best of their capabilities and deliver the best results we – and our clients! – are looking for. 

What did you learn about yourself and the industry over the years?

A lot. Most importantly that I want to stay as hands-on as I can in the actual job. I love keeping track of little changes in Google ads for instance; I don’t want to lose myself in a pure management role. I know that I want to keep knowing all the details of every platform and all the trends that my team deals with. 

What are some of your favourite things about performance marketing? 

I love working with clients on projects where we are doing the full spectrum of marketing – setting up creative concepts, digital channels, landing pages, marketing automation, CRM, tracking, etc. Full-service projects allow for more impactful results; letting us work together with our client to increase their actual business results step by step. Projects like these are very fulfilling because you control every step and are actually directly leading to business growth.

I find the continuous changes in the industry thrilling. New tools, methodologies, legislation tracking… a lot is always happening and it’s a challenge to always be at the forefront of these developments.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

Most challenging would be when you are not able to be in control of every step or part of a project. This can happen, of course; a client may not have the budget So when we run a campaign ad we notice that some things on the client’s side could be done better. And that the client can not change it. So you are basically getting sub-optimal results.

How do you like to spend your time away from work?

I love to travel. Unfortunately that’s not possible now, of course, with the global pandemic. Normally, I don’t go to the same place twice – I love exploring new places. Aside from travelling, I’m into sports. I exercise and take part in sporting activities around 5 times a week. I also enjoy watching all kinds of sports like football, Formula 1, and MMA. I even watch Darts from time to time.

Wrapping Up

Connect with Pieter on LinkedIn to learn more about his work as a performance marketer.

Get to know our #2StallionsFamily with the #2STeamStories tag.  Discover the works done by our diverse team of digital marketing professionals who’ll bring your ideas to life with impactful designs. If you’re looking for a performance marketing expert, don’t hesitate to contact us

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a performance strategist? Performance marketing is – as its name suggests – marketing based on performance. It’s a term that refers to a skillful combination of online marketing and advertising campaign programs.

Did you know that between 2019 and 2020, digital marketing budgets saw an increase in an average of 13%? This upward trending budget indicates an uptake in digital marketing. Technology is constantly changing, and performance marketing uses those advancements to drive successes. Performance marketing initiatives are the latest ‘hot’ thing, and not likely to go away, in fact, it’s likely to dominate the marketing sphere for the years to come.

As a result, a performance strategist plays a key role in the future of marketing. This week, we hear more about what makes a performance strategist tick, and how our very own performance strategist, Geetha Boyani, found her way to the #2StallionFamily.

Tell us about yourself! Who are you and where did you come from?

Hey! I am Geetha. I’m a Performance Strategist at 2Stallions. To break down my job title, I build data-driven strategies to reach target audiences in the digital space. I specialize in Search Engine Marketing (think of Google!). Furthermore, I’m a tech nerd, especially when it comes to tracking what users do on a website and how they become customers.

I come from an Engineering background, with a degree in Civil Engineering. Fresh out of college, I found an interest in the financial aspects of construction projects. Later, I went on to get a Masters in Project Management. After graduating, I made the conscious decision to switch to a career that blends my interest in dollars and numbers with project management. I must say I found that golden blend in digital marketing.

Is there someone who inspires you? Or something that motivates you?

I don’t really have role models per se. Being a numbers person, I find motivation in results. I wake up every day knowing I have a challenge ready for me at work. Solving these challenges and hearing “wow, it’s solved!” is definitely inspiring. I store these reactions so I can draw on them when things get tough.

You’ve come from a non-marketing background. Was it difficult for you to work in a field that was outside of your degree specialization? Do you have any advice for fresh graduates who are currently looking for jobs and are open to explore different career paths?

The world of work has changed drastically. We’re moving away from the belief that your degree decides your entire professional life and with technology updating practically every day, new opportunities are constantly created. 

In my opinion, learning new skills based on your passions can go a long way.  For example, I learned Java programming as part of my school curriculum nine years ago. Between then and now, I hardly used it in my work. When I made the transition to digital marketing and joined 2Stallions, one of the early projects required a custom script to track how users interact with a form. The script used Javascript. Going back to the basics I learnt nine years ago, I picked up how Javascript works and then implemented the solution. 

I started my journey as a fresher in all three  companies I have worked in so far. Each experience has been different however the common learning has been to stay teachable. Also, as freshers, we come into industries with some expectations like about the kind of work we do, or the team we are in. We all need to identify what our priorities are, not every workplace has a pool table. Ask yourself, does that even matter? What worked for me was to find a mentor or  friend to talk with. Those conversations helped me manage my expectations.

Are there any tips or tricks you use to get yourself going when you might find yourself stuck with developing a strategy or tactic to help a client or even your own personal brand?

Competition is a Pandora’s Box of insights. When I develop strategic plans for clients, I take time to check out what the competition is doing. This puts me in the place of an end user. When I am stuck, I go back to that user journey and ask myself, “Why would I go for this <brand> vs the other?” This gives me a new perspective on what I am missing and how I can better provide for my client.

Can you share some of your favorite marketing guides/non-marketing books?

I prefer to listen to podcasts or read blogs for marketing aspects. Currently, I have The Paid Search Podcast and Neil Patel’s Marketing School on my playlist. The audiobook Hacking Growth by Sean Ellis is lined up as my next read.

As for non-marketing books, I found Girl, Stop Apologising by Rachel Hollis memorable. It’s a must-read for anyone feeling that they are not good enough.

Is it true that an agency life is work without play? Tell us a little bit more about the culture at 2Stallions.

Honestly, I was scared to join an agency after hearing those stories. After joining 2Stallions, I believe the team played a huge role in helping me fit in. Our agency culture is best defined as “supportive”. I found amazing friends in my co-workers. Even though we are all working from home for most of this last year, we have come together virtually (and sometimes in person) to catch up on life outside work.

What about outside of work? What makes you tick? 

Anyone who knows me associates me with the word “Toastmasters”. When I am not working, there are high chances that I will be working on Toastmasters related projects. 

Toastmasters International is a not-for-profit organization, based in the USA, committed to developing communication and leadership skills with a learn-by-doing approach. In Singapore, there are more than 200 clubs where people can practice their speaking skills. I have been part of Toastmasters for close to 10 years now, and through this movement, I have met my mentors as well as got the opportunity to mentor others. To an extent, I would credit Toastmasters for helping me identify digital marketing as a career choice.

Wrapping Up 

Connect with Geetha on LinkedIn to learn more about her work as a performance strategist or about her work with Toastmasters!

Get to know our #2Stallionsfamily with the #2Steamstories tag.  Discover the works done by our diverse team of digital marketing professionals who’ll bring your ideas to life with impactful designs. Browse and download our case studies now. 

If you’re looking for a content marketing expert, don’t hesitate to contact us

The digital transformation era is here. Even if we were not ready for it yet, the events of 2020 have defintely propelled us forward. Digital transformation refers to the complete integration of digital technologies into business. COVID-19 has pushed most companies into adopting some digital strategies and technologies to stay in touch with their customers and keep themselves above water. 

Full digital transformation takes time and patience. The pandemic has served as a wake-up call for businesses and their leaders to take the steps towards fully integrating digital systems across their company. Companies looking to undergo a digital transformation do not need to do it all at once. There four key aspects to digital transformation:

  • Processes
  • Business Model
  • Domain
  • Cultural/Organzation

Transforming a company at any time can be an intimidating and stressful endeavour if it is not planned out. By taking on one aspect at a time, companies can ease into the digital transformation strategically. Business processes are often the first to undergo digitization – preferred communication methods changing from old-fashioned memos to email is an example of a digital transformation that took place in the last decade for instance. Later the adoption of VOIP tools such as Skype, and afterwards instant messengers like WhatsApp, Line, or WeChat have been other such transformations that have digitized communication processes within business. 

The transformation of company culture and organization and domain are often next, following the adaptation of communication processes. Tools like project management software, or community platforms like Facebook’s Workplace or SproutSocial’s Bamboo, help bring companies together and unify company culture efforts. 

Adapting entire business models can take longer. Depending on the age and size of the business, it can take a lot of time to transform the very core of any company. Many business models have evolved over time, even if they were decided upon at the start of the company. Changes the company has faced over its lifetime will have had an impact on the way companies function. Digital transformation is no different – a type of evolution that companies will undergo if they are to survive in the new era, particularly after this pandemic.

But why should a company undergo such an evolution? 

3 Reasons to Join the Digital Transformation Era

1. Digital Customer Journeys are on the Rise

Even before 2020’s pandemic, the trend towards the digital customer journey was obvious. The global increase in e-commerce, social selling initiatives, and the general climb in Internet penetration, did not need COVID-19 or social distancing restrictions to allow humanity go digital.

Consumers have more power than ever, able to research their potential purchases and compare notes with each other using reviews and referrals. Social media has furthered this empowerment, allowing consumers to connect with each other in even more personal ways and discuss brands and purchasing options.

Marketplaces and Shopify-powered websites make brands and products even more accessible, allowing potential customers to take their time to make the purchases and do their research. In essence, from start to finish, the customer’s journey is completely digital.

Optimizing customer journey satisfaction is the way to earn customer loyalty, and it’s a known fact that loyal customers spend 67% more than new ones

Digital transformation would allow companies better access to their customer-base, not only for sales purposes but also with regards to marketing tactics. 

2. Increased Data and Insights

A company’s ability to reach its customers is one thing, but digital transformation of processes and systems also allows for the influx of data. With real time information streaming in through analytical platforms, companies can now better track, analyze, understand, and anticipate customer behaviour.

Website analytics through tools such as Google Analytics can help companies gain insight into their audience and content preferences. Other measurement tools provide insight into social media habits, conversations, and again, their content preferences. 

Additionally, with the rise in omnichannel marketing, the integration of online and offline data is an added advantage that a digital transformation can bring about. 

Getting to know your audience even better is a solid advantage, and the data and insights brought in by digital transformation is something companies cannot ignore any longer.

3. Improved Inter-Company Communication & Collaboration

The improvement of in-house communication is something many companies can use. Digitization has saved many companies during the pandemic, keeping employees connected during a time when they may have been forced to work remotely for long periods of time.

In fact, many businesses are seeing an opportunity to shift from permanent, physical office space to a more-remote-based workforce. This, of course, comes with its own downside: not everyone is cut out for remote work for long periods of time, and it is possible that productivity will suffer as a result of this. On the other hand, however, a remote workforce is flexible and, with the help of proper digital transformation, need not be disconnected. 

Providing digital means of connectivity, there is no reason that a company cannot build and maintain a strong, connected team.

Final Thoughts

Digital transformation is the next step in the evolution of business. While the pandemic may be forcing many companies to move faster than they may like, adapting to digital tools and processes seems the logical thing to do.  

Is it time for your company to undertake its own digital transformation? 2Stallions can help. We specialize in digital performance marketing, website and app development, and can help you take the next step towards a fully integrated digital business setup. Get in touch today and find out how to get started.

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